I am the creator and associate professor of the program in Global Creative Industries in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures in the Faculty of Arts of HKU, which commenced in 2012. Prior to that I taught Japanese Studies at the University of Hong Kong for sixteen years.
I read my BA at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, majoring in Anthropology. I continued my studies in Anthropology at Oxford University where I did my PhD on Social Anthropology. One of my most inspiring undergraduate teachers was Professor Chen Chi-nan who taught me how important it is that we understand others in their cultural context rather than impose our own cultural conceptions upon them. Another important mentor for me was Professor Marshall Sahlins. He taught me that culture is a species-specific capacity for Homo Sapiens and cannot be reduced to any practical reason. I have also learned from Jean-Paul Sartre that individual behaviors cannot be solely determined by culture. The ultimate challenge for us therefore is to understand how individual behaviors are ordered but not prescribed by culture. These insights provide the basis of my method of scholarly inquiry and interest in the diverse nature of cultures and human behavior. My work proceeds in opposition to the kind of Social Science that buries cultural specificities beneath generalizations that are ostensibly scientific. For me a Social Science that ignores individual, social and cultural meaning is only a pseudo-Social Science. Moreover, my respect for cultural diversity and particularities also safeguards me against worshipping any theoretical authorities.
Because meaning is so complex and mutable, I also find that traditional disciplinary and academic compartments very limited in making sense of our humanity. This in turn makes it impossible for me to work exclusively within one discipline. Thus early in my career I published an ethnography on a Japanese supermarket in Hong Kong, and I have since written numerous works in which techniques of Anthropology and Ethnography are used to better understand businesses, including, most recently, a co-authored ethnography of a Chinese family firm in Hong Kong. So while it is understandable that some of my friends and colleagues classify my work as Business Anthropology, others classify me as a ‘traditional’ Anthropologist. This is because of my ethnographical writings on Chinese kinship (that include a book I am now working on). Yet again, because of the many books I have written on Japanese popular culture, others classify me as a Cultural Studies scholar. But I do not see myself as a specialist - I am an ordinary person who just wants to know more about other people’s lives. Indeed, my inspiration and drive is to understand the Other.
Of course, I recognize that disciplinarity has certain advantages when it comes to exploring questions in ever more detail and from diverse perspectives. And I have worked and published with scholars from different disciplines including History, Cultural Studies, Legal Studies, Sociology, Economics, Political Philosophy, and Theology. Working with people from a diverse range of perspectives has been of great importance to me. And thus far I have organized more than 50 international conferences, workshops, as well as seminars. These conferences, involving scholars from different countries and different disciplines, in turn have formed the basis of numerous edited volumes that I have edited or coedited.
I have also conducted research in Greater China (Hong Kong, Taiwan, China) and Japan. I have studied the emergence of Taiwanese consciousness in Taiwan and will write a trilogy on Taiwan in the Japanese colonial period, the Kuomintang (KMT) period and the Lee Teng Hui regime. I have also conducted extensive research on Hong Kong, including a Chinese family Hong Kong business, the spread of Japanese popular culture to Hong Kong, and, more generally, Hong Kong identity. I have also been researching the adult video industry in Japan and its globalization in Hong Kong and Taiwan and published a trilogy on it. They are Japanese Adult Videos in Taiwan (Routledge, 2014), Japanese Adult Video Industry (Routledge, 2017) and Censorship in Japan (Routledge, in press). Currently, I am conducting research on ‘pink’ films in Japan. With regard to China, I am conducting research on Japanese popular culture there, focusing upon who imports Japanese popular culture into China, how they do so, and the impact of consumption of Japanese popular culture on the Chinese society there.
Apart from my permanent position at the University of Hong Kong, I have been a Visiting Professor in numerous other universities.